Just Breathe

By S. Lynne

Part 5

“So after all that, she was ok with it?”




They’re quiet.  Huh that’s unusual.

“So you were worried for nothin’?”

There it is.

“Looks like it, doesn’t it?”

“Hell yeah!  I mean, I know why you didn’t tell her sooner, but shit, you shoulda!”

“I know, right?  I wouldn’t have had to deal with all of that stuff on my own for so long.  As it was, once I told her, I couldn’t get her to stop talking about it…


“So, seriously, did you ever have a crush on me?” Rachel asked, staring at me over her chocolate milkshake.  As always, her timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  I had just taken a huge bite of my cheeseburger and as soon as the words were out of her mouth I began to choke.

“What?!” I sputtered, gasping to catch my breath.  Rachel stood up and came over to my side of the booth and began patting me on the back.  She leaned down closer to clarify what she had said.

“Ugh, pay attention, Green!  Did.You.Ever.Have.A.Crush.On.Me?!” she emphasized each word with a not-so-light pat on my back.

“No!” I whispered loudly to her.

She stopped patting me on the back and went back to her side of the booth looking shocked.  For a while, all she did was stare at me.  I couldn’t take it.

“What?” I finally blurted out.

“How could you not have a crush on me?” she asked a little too loudly for my comfort.  I looked around, but it seemed that nobody had noticed.

“Rachel!  Not so loud!” I yelled back.  This time, people around us grew quiet and stared.  I blushed and hid my face in my hands.

“Kyle,” Rachel laughed, “hey, c’mon, look at me.”

“No,” I muttered from behind my hands.

“C’mon, Greeny,” she said, reaching across the table and poking my fingers.  I opened my fingers enough to look through and see Rachel crossing her eyes and sticking her tongue out at me.  I couldn’t help it, I laughed.

“There,” she said, popping another French fry into her mouth, “so now, tell me why.”

“Umm…why what?” I asked, trying to avoid the question.

“You know, why you never had a you-know-what on me,” she asked seriously.

“I don’t know, I guess I just didn’t,” I replied honestly.

“Am I ugly or something?” she asked, taking another sip of her milkshake.

“No, of course not,” I replied, sighing, “I guess I just know you too well or something.”

“Ok, I guess I’ll take that as an answer,” she said, pushing her empty plate away from her, “damn I’m full.”

“Duh, you ate that huge burger and all those fries, I’m surprised you haven’t exploded yet,” I said, eyeing the still uneaten half of my own cheeseburger.

“Well, you know me, always growing,” she replied, letting out a loud belch.  When someone at another table gave her a dirty look for doing it, she just stuck her tongue out at them, making me laugh.

“Ok, so if you don’t have a crush on me, who’s caught your eye?” she asked, leaning forward onto the table.

“No one,” I replied quickly, hoping that she had forgotten what she’d said about me watching Amy.

“No one, huh?  Why don’t I believe you?” she asked, sitting back and folding her arms.

“I don’t know.” I said, looking anywhere but at her.

Rachel was quiet for a moment and looked deep in thought.  Not good.


Oh crap.

“You totally have a thing for Amy, don’t you?!” she whispered excitedly.

“No, no way, I don’t know what you’re talking about.  Um, check please?” I quickly replied as I noticed the waitress walking by.

“Whatever, just admit it!  I’ve seen you watching her; I thought maybe at first you just thought she was hot.  You’ve totally got it bad for her, doncha?”

“Can we not talk about this here,” I whispered to her as the waitress dropped our check at the table.  I threw down a twenty, grabbed my bag from next to me and practically ran out of the diner.

“Ky, wait up!” Rachel called, chasing after me.  “Kyle, c’mon, slow down!”

Once we were back at her truck I finally stopped.  Rachel was practically running to catch up to me.

“Geez, Kyle.  Why didn’t you slow down and wait for me?  And why’d you leave that waitress a ten dollar tip, I mean, she was kinda rude, and the foods not all that great,” Rachel rambled, “and why didn’t you answer my question about Amy.  I mean, now that I think about it, you’re always watching her and you get all shy like Junior-High-Ky whenever she’s around and –“, I couldn’t take it anymore, I clapped my hand over her mouth to get her to shut up.

“Rachel!  Calm down, open your truck and take me back home, OK?” I said forcefully.  She looked up at me with wide eyes and nodded her head, my hand still covering her mouth.  I slowly lowered my hand, not sure she would follow my orders.  To my surprise she turned and unlocked the passenger side door before walking over to the driver’s side and got in.  I sighed, knowing that the silence would only last for so long.  As soon as we were back on the road, Rachel flicked her eyes at me.

“Um, I’m sorry Kyle,” she said quietly.  Crap, now I felt bad.

“It’s alright, Rach.  I guess I just wasn’t ready for so many questions,” I replied, picking at a loose thread in the seat.

“I guess I just got a little carried away,” Rachel confessed.

“Don’t worry about Rachel.  I’m actually glad that you ask me stuff, even if I’m not ready to answer all your questions.  It feels good to have it all out in the open, you know?” I said, looking over at Rachel.  She was smiling.

“Yeah, I bet,” she said.  We sat in a comfortable silence for a couple of miles before I decided to answer at least one of her questions.

“You know, you’re right,” I said quietly.

“Right about what?” she asked, checking her rearview mirror.

“About Amy,” I muttered.

“What was that?” she asked.

“You know, about me liking Amy,” I said a little bit louder.

“I knew it!” Rachel shouted triumphantly, honking on the horn and swerving at the same time.

“Whoa, pay attention to driving, would ya?” I yelled, grabbing the door handle in a panic.  How Rachel got her license, I’ll never really know.

“Sorry,” she said, composing herself.

“It’s OK,” I replied, still not willing to give up my hold on the door just yet.  I looked over at Rachel and she had a curious look on her face.

“What?” I asked.

“Well, I’m just wondering, do you think she’s hotter than me?”



“Rachel sounds like she was hella tight!”

“Yeah, she’s pretty awesome.”

“So, you told her, and she was cool with it.  Did you tell anyone else after that?”

I smile.

“I’m telling you, aren’t I?”

There are a few laughs, some eyes role.

“You know what I mean, did you tell anyone after your girl Rachel? Like, right away?”

I smile shyly.

“Yes.”  I pause.


“The one person I had never planned on telling…”


“Good job Katie!  Now make sure you follow through like that every time you take that jump shot and they’ll swish just like that,” I said, smiling down at the little girl standing next to me.

“Thanks Coach Kyle!” she said smiling back up at me, running after the ball she had just shot.  I looked around at each of the different stations, watching my teammates working with girls ranging in ages from seven to fourteen.  This was one of my favorite parts of playing on the team.  Every summer we hosted a summer basketball camp for girls, teaching them all of the skills they would need to know to become great basketball players.  It felt really good to be a role model for these kids.  And, I admit, I liked how “Coach Kyle” sounded.

“Hey Kyle!”

I turned to see Amy jogging over from the group of girls she had been working with.  Amy’s specialty was free throws.  She made ninety-two percent from the line the last season.  Not that I had been paying attention or anything.

“Hey Amy, what’s up?” I asked as she got nearer.

“We’re on cleanup today after camp lets out, do you want a ride or something?” she asked.

“I…umm … yeah, that’d be great,” I said, surprised.  Today was the second to last day of the two week camp and we had been on cleanup duty together a couple of times already and she hadn’t offered me a ride home.  I wasn’t about to say no, though.  A ride instead of having to walk the mile back home after camp sounded really good.  The fact that I would get to spend more time with Amy sounded even better.

“Cool,” she smiled, running back to her group of girls.  I watched her run, my eyes drifting down to watch her… assets as she ran.

“Coach Kyle!”

I jumped and turned to the little girl standing to my left, holding a basketball out to me.

“What’s up Alicia?”

“Can you show me what you showed Katie?  She said it was the best thing ever and that she was gonna be better than all of us!”  I laughed, taking the ball out of her hands.

“Sure thing, kiddo,” I said, sparing one more quick glance at Amy, then looked back at Alicia, “here’s how you do it…”


“That the last one?” Amy asked as I pushed the ball cart into the equipment room.

“Yup,” I replied, closing the door behind me.

“Great.  Looks like everybody else left already.  I just gotta grab my bag out of the locker room and we can get out of here, OK?”

“Yeah, sounds good. I gotta get my bag, too,” I said, following her into the locker room.  Amy’s locker was near the entrance, mine was still near the back.  As I walked back towards my locker the anxiety that hit me every time I was in there began to build.  Calm down, it’s OK.  Amy’s in here with you.  Nothing’s going to happen.  I reached my locker and sat down on the bench to take off my basketball shoes and socks, then threw them into my bag.  I pulled out my flip flops and was slipping them on when I heard the door the locker room open and close.  I froze.

“A-Amy?” I asked.  There was no answer.  My heart began to speed up.

 “Amy?!” I called, louder this time.  Still no answer.  I began to panic.  I grabbed my bag off the floor and stood up on shaky legs.  My breathing was beginning to speed up, my palms were sweaty.  I was alone.

All I could think to do was run.  I ran down the length of the locker room and burst threw the locker room doors and into the gym. 

“Whoa, Kyle, you OK?” Amy asked, standing in front of me.

“I… you weren’t in the locker room.  You didn’t answer when I called out to you,” I gasped.  My breathing was getting out of control. 

“Hey, you look kind of pale,” she said, reaching out towards me.  I shrunk away.

“Why weren’t you there?!” I asked, pulling my inhaler out of my bag’s front pocket and sitting down on the floor.

“I left my sweatshirt out on the bleachers,” Amy said looking down at me and holding up the article of clothing for me to see, “I just ran out here to come and get it.  What’s going on Kyle?”

After taking a couple of puffs from my inhaler my breathing was getting better.  I put my head in my hands, trying to get my bearings.  I could feel Amy sit down next to me.

“Kyle, what is it?” Amy said, placing her hand on my shoulder.  Without even looking at her I knew she was worried.  It was the tone of her voice that tipped me off.  I lifted my head, eyes closed, and took a deep breath.  When I opened my eyes, I looked at Amy.  There was so much compassion in her golden eyes I couldn’t look for long.

“It’s nothing Amy,” I replied, looking away.

“It’s not nothing Kyle,” she replied sternly, “look at me.”

“I can’t,” I whispered.

“Please Kyle, just look at me,” she pleaded.  I turned my head slowly and looked at her.  For a moment, she said nothing.  Then she lifted her hand to my face, touching the outline of my scar.  I closed my eyes at the tender contact.

“It has something to do with this, doesn’t it?” she asked quietly.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Something did happen in the locker room that day, didn’t it Kyle?”

I nodded.

“You didn’t really trip did you?”


“Tell me what happened, Kyle,” Amy pleaded, pulling her hand away.

“I don’t know if I can,” I whispered.

“You can trust me,” she said.  I looked at her again and saw the truth of her words in her eyes.

“I didn’t trip.  I was pushed into one of the lockers and held there by a guy who was much bigger than me.  I must have cut my face on the grate of the locker,” I replied shakily, mentally picturing what happened that day.

“Oh my God,” she breathed.  The look on her face could be described as shock.  She was quiet for a long time, and I was kicking myself for saying anything.  Suddenly she grabbed my arm.

“He didn’t… do anything else, did he?” she asked as if afraid of the answer.

“Anything else?” I was confused.

“You know… did he… touch you?”

“No, no.  Nothing like that,” I replied.  She took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

“Did he do anything else?”

I hesitated, wondering if I should tell her what he said.  I looked over at her once again and knew the answer.

“He said something to me,” I said quietly.

“What did he say, Kyle,” she asked, looking me in the eye.

“He…” I swallowed, my mouth suddenly becoming dry, “he called me a dyke and told me that he’d kill me if he ever caught me looking at a girl at this school.”

Amy was silent, but her eye contact never wavered.  I waited, scared of what was going to happen next.  Amy finally broke eye contact and stood up.  She began pacing in front of me.  I watched her, confused.

“That asshole!”

My eyes grew wide.

“That God damn asshole!  I can’t believe someone would do that to you!”

My jaw dropped.

“Do you know who the guy is?  Does he go to this school?  Did you ever report it?  That fucking asshole!”

“Amy,” I tried to get her attention.

“Of course you didn’t report it, you never did tell anyone this happened did you?”

“Amy!” I tried again.

“Why didn’t you tell me, Kyle?  Why?”

She finally stopped her ranting and looked at me, waiting for an answer.

“I was afraid,” I muttered, standing up.

“Afraid?  Afraid of what?  That guy should have been expelled or something.  You should have told someone!” she yelled, looking up at me.

“I was afraid people would ask me too many questions, just like you’re doing now!” I yelled back.

We stared at each other, neither one of us willing to back down.  Finally Amy took a deep breath and ran her hand through her hair.

“I just… Kyle, even if you were afraid, you should have reported it.  Or at least told me,” Amy said.

“I wanted to,” I said, “I was just so scared people would only want to know why he was calling me a dyke.”

Amy looked back up at me.

“Why would you be afraid of that?”

“Because,” I took a deep breath, hoping I was doing the right thing, “because I’m gay, and I was afraid that people would find out if they started asking questions.”

Amy stood silently once again.


Amy took a step back.  I turned.  I had made a mistake.  She couldn’t even stand near me.  I grabbed my bag off the floor and started walking towards the exit of the gym.  As soon as I made it outside I had to lean against the wall.  My legs were trembling.  I had told the one person I had sworn to never tell.  And she had backed away from me.  I could feel tears begin to well up in my eyes.  I was so wrapped up in my misery that I must not have heard the door open.


I looked over and saw Amy standing there, holding her bag and now wearing her sweatshirt.  I couldn’t say anything to her, so I looked away, waiting for her to tell me she never wanted to speak to me again.

“Kyle, c’mon, I thought I was giving you a ride home,” she said, holding up her car keys for me to see.

“What?” I asked, not sure what was going on.

“Just c’mon,” she said, taking off towards the parking lot.  I followed automatically, completely confused by what was going on.  We walked in silence, reaching Amy’s car shortly.  She clicked the automatic lock and opened the back passenger door, throwing her bag on the back seat before getting into the drivers seat.  I threw my bag in the back and climbed into the passenger seat.  My knees touched the dash.

“There’s a bar under the seat that you can pull on to adjust it,” Amy said, turning the car on.  She let it idle for a minute, silently staring out the front window.  I turned to her. 

“What are you thinking?” I asked, desperate to know what was going on.  Amy turned to me and smiled.

“I was thinking that I’m really glad you told me,” she said before turning back to put the car in gear and pulling out of the parking space.

“You are?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said.  I turned to look out the windshield, not sure what to think. 

“I’ve wondered, you know,” she continued.

“You did?” I squeaked, sure she had caught me looking at her.

“I mean, yeah.  You never really had a boyfriend and I dunno, guess it was just a vibe I picked up,” she answered.

“Oh,” was all I could think to reply.  We drove in silence the rest of the way to my house.  When we got there, she pulled up into the driveway and put the car in park.  I wasn’t sure what to do, so I made to get out of the car.

“Umm… thanks for the ride,” I said, opening the door.  Amy reached out and put her hand on my shoulder.

“Hey,” she said.  I turned to look at her.


“I’m really glad you told me what happened,” she started, “I’m so sorry that happened to you, Kyle.”

“I… thanks, Amy.  You’re the only person I’ve told about that,” I replied.

“Wow,” she replied, “and I wanted to say thank you for telling me, about you I mean,” she said, fidgeting in her seat.

“You’re only the second person I’ve told that,” I admitted.



“Wow,” she said again, looking intently out the windshield again, “I know it isn’t easy to tell people.”

“No, it’s really not,” I replied.

“No,” she said, looking at me intently now, “I know it’s not easy.”

“You do?” I asked, not really understanding.

“Yeah, I do,” she said shakily, “because I’ve never told anyone.”

“Told anyone what?” I asked, still not quite getting it.  She stayed quiet for a moment.

“That I’m… that I’m gay,” she finally answered.

“Oh my.”

Continued in Part 6

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